Certificate in Spiritual Direction, Formation, and World Engagement

SFTS is happy to offer a certificate in spiritual direction based in the art of contemplative listening but open to people with a wide range of interests. Traditionally, spiritual directors were simply people perceived to be wise in the ways of spirit and compassionate toward others. We believe that good spiritual direction is rooted in deep and stable spiritual practice. Training in spiritual direction occurs therefore in the context of contemplative retreats. Study, reading, and practice in community provide a rhythm which encourages rootedness in spiritual discipline, even as one trains in the arts of listening, discernment, and basic knowledge of spiritual direction.

Spiritual direction also requires practice of attentive listening – holy listening – to others on their faith journey. Participants will practice spiritual direction in several contexts under the supervision of experienced directors. This focus on supervised practice is a distinctive strength of the program at SFTS.

The focus on spiritual formation, practice, and attention to compassion and justice are distinctive marks of a Certificate in the Art of Spiritual Direction through SFTS. We encourage participants who expect to engage Christian ministries as well as activists and members of other spiritual traditions.

Program Requirements

The foundational retreat toward a certificate is “The Art of Contemplative Listening” which offers training in “open-hearted listening:” listening from the heart, attending to the heart of others, seeking the heart of the matter. Through study and practice, participants will explore elements of deep listening.

Those who are intending to practice spiritual direction will take the following retreat modules:

  • Foundations of Spiritual Direction
  • Discernment
  • One elective

Participants wishing to focus on spiritual formation or activism will take three additional retreats focused on their vocational interests. Participation in one Collaborative Seminar through the Center for Innovation in Ministry can count toward the three electives.

Between retreats participants will:

  • Be in spiritual direction
  • Participate in an online community offering further study and support
  • Work through a required set of readings and turn in short reflection papers on the readings
  • Practice contemplative listening with a designated spiritual companion or friend, meeting at least once a month for an hour for this purpose.
  • Locate supervised practicum (see below)

Practicum & Supervision

After completing retreats in Contemplative Listening and Foundations of Spiritual Direction, participants with an interest in spiritual vocation will locate 2-3 directees to begin practicing their own style of spiritual direction. These practicums will be supervised by a local spiritual director approved by this program. Participants will negotiate a contract and payment with their supervisor. People focusing on formation or activism will locate an appropriate practicum and supervisor.

Supervision and evaluation of a student’s progress will occur annually.

Students may complete the four retreats and additional background at the rate that suits their life circumstances. But they must have two years of supervised practice to receive the certificate.

Retreat, Study, & Community

Each retreat will combine study, spiritual practice, quiet, and community. Typically, each morning will be dedicated to the study of the retreat topic. After lunch and a break, participants will have opportunities to meet in small groups to practice what they are learning. The day begins and ends with worship or meditation. Retreatants have opportunities to take their meals together as well as time for quiet, rest, contemplative walks. Participants will encounter models of practice from a variety of spiritual and cultural traditions.

Click here to learn more about retreats.

Students may use one of one of the online social justice seminars offered by the Center for Innovation in Ministry to count toward a certificate.
Click here to learn more about these seminars. 

Admission Requirements

Because spiritual direction depends on the director’s own spiritual grounding, applicants should have at least six months of regular spiritual/contemplative practice. Participants should indicate a regular habit of contemplative prayer or other appropriate spiritual practice and participation in some form of community.

Participants joining the spiritual direction concentration are strongly encouraged to experience some form of spiritual direction before entering the program so they will have an idea of what it is. If you are drawn in this direction, we encourage you to locate a spiritual director and begin this process of deep spiritual nurture and growth. If this is not possible, consult with the Director about how to satisfy this requirement.

Applicants will typically have at least a BA degree and some background of study in spiritual or theological studies. If this is lacking, contact the Director for guidance in acquiring some knowledge of spiritual traditions before you begin the certificate.



The estimated cost of the certificate program is $5,000. This does not include meals or lodging, or tuition for collaborative seminars through the Center for Innovation in Ministry.

Meals include a self-service breakfast, communal lunch, and a coffee and tea service during the day as well as material costs for the program: $97.50 for one week, $195.00 for two weeks. Dinners are not included in this fee but can be arranged individually or as a group through carry out, restaurants, or simple cooking in the dorm. There are a number of very pleasant restaurants and coffee shops within walking distance. 

Housing costs as follows:

For a one week term (6 nights, 5 days of instruction): $420.00
For a two week term (12 nights, 10 days of instruction): $770.00

Housing is in a dormitory style building with shared bathrooms and kitchen facilities.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Wendy Farley, Director, Program in Christian Spirituality

415.451.2867 | wfarley@sfts.edu

The SFTS Program in Christian Spirituality was one of first to offer spiritual direction training in a Protestant seminary. It presents a ground-breaking approach to spirituality that combines head and heart, prayer and public witness, ancient practices and contemporary experimentation across many faith traditions. Congratulations to the program, which celebrated its 20th Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction graduating class in 2016.